What’s going to happen to the 2010 Toyota F1 car, designed before the team pulled the plug in December? You know, the latest in a succession of Toyotas that cost a bomb, would have promised a lot but ultimately failed to deliver? Is it just going to gather dust somewhere in Cologne?
Nope, it’s now in the possession of one Zoran Stefanovic, F1 team owner in waiting. Mr. Stefanovic plans to compete in F1 as early as, well, this year. With no spaces on the grid it’ll be pretty tough, but Stefanovic doesn’t seem the sort to be daunted by impossible odds. He has a dream.
Stefanovic is a Serbian entrepreneur, heads an engineering company called AMCO, and says he has the facilities in place to run an F1 team. Naming the team Stefan GP (SGP for short) he tried to enter F1 for 2010 when the FIA opened up new grid slots but his effort was rejected. He’s now bought the 2010 Toyotas, gearbox and engines included, but not their entry. That went to Sauber.
Stefanovic first tried to enter F1 way back in 1997, attempting to buy the catastrophic Lola F1 team’s cars. For those who don’t know, Lola turned up at the first race, were eleven seconds of the pole time and thus fell foul of the old 107% rule, whereby you failed to qualify if you weren’t within 107% of the pole winner’s lap. They turned up again at round two but didn’t hit the track and folded soon after.
Why Stefanovic would want to buy a team whose machines make it in to almost every ‘worst F1 car in history’ list isn’t clear. But now he’s back with a far better base, a Toyota car you have to think would have been at least top half material in 2010. But no grid spot. Bad luck, eh?
Well, not in Stefanovic’s opinion. He’s none to happy with the FIA who he feels have imposed illegal rules to find their new entries. He says his team and others, including Dave Richard’s highly regarded Prodrive, were ruled out because they weren’t planning to use Cosworth engines (as all of the chosen new teams for 2010 are). And this, he says, is illegal.
So he’s suing the FIA. Which, you’d think, probably isn’t the best way to make it on to the grid. Not that he doesn’t have a point- what do Campos have that makes them a better bet than Prodrive, especially in light of the Spanish team’s recent financial woes? Stefanovic isn’t just throwing his toys out of the pram at not getting in to F1. Okay, he might be, but his point is still valid.
Away from the political mess and back to SGP, who now have a 2010 ready F1 car, a team in place but no grid spot for the new season. Assuming a place doesn’t open up, what’s the plan?
Not a bad one, actually: exploit the testing ban. Stefanovic says he’ll run rookie drivers, for a price, on behalf of established F1 teams, allowing them mileage in an F1 car without breaking the testing ban. What with SGP not being an official F1 team they wouldn’t have to adhere to the ban. How much might Romain Grosjean or Jaime Alguersuari have appreciated that sort of track time?
A plus side for SGP is that they could develop the Toyota they’ve got their hands on with the view to competing in 2011. After all, we can’t rule out at least one team leaving the sport during 2010. Quitting F1 has become quite popular of late.
Of course that’s not to say the FIA would let SGP in, especially after an attempted lawsuit. It’s also worth mentioning that Stefanovic has Mike Coughlan leading his tech-team. That’s the same Mike Coughlan who was at the centre of 2007’s spy scandal. That probably didn’t help the bid either, Zoran.
But Stefanovic has shown he’s not one for giving up, at least not without a noisy fight. His dream is to launch Serbia’s first F1 team, and like most dreamers he wont let any obstacle stand in his way. Perhaps with Jean Todt replacing Max Mosley at the FIA he’ll have a better shot. Then again it was Todt who allowed his old mate Peter Sauber the final spot on the 2010 grid, ahead of SGP.
Don’t bank on them making it to F1. But at the same time don’t rule Stefan GP out- not just yet anyway.
If you want to investigate SGP further yourself, start with their 1992 inspired website, a unique style – featuring very little to no content what so ever, except a vague job advert and a total of four ‘news’ stories :
StefanGP announce that our car Stefan S-01 successfully pass crash tests… More
Last week Mr. Stefanovic was in Toyota Motorsport in Cologne… More
SGP Team is confident the FIA will eventually green-light… More
Today in Belgrade, Mr. Zoran Stefanovic… More